Entries tagged with “User interface”.


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A Microsoft patent application details a business model whereby the user gets a free or heavily subsidized PC but is charged for usage time, application and performance. Microsoft has applied for a patent on metered, pay-as-you-go computing.

US patent application number 20080319910, published on Christmas Day2008, details Microsoft’s vision of a situation where a “standard model” of PC is given away or heavily subsidized by someone in the supply chain. The end user then pays to use the computer, with charges based on both the length of usage time and the performance levels utilized, along with a “one-time charge”.

Microsoft notes in the application that the end user could end up paying more for the computer, compared with the one-off cost entailed in the existing PC business model, but argues the user would benefit by having a PC with an extended “useful life”.

“A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected,” reads the patent application’s abstract.

“The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed,” the abstract continues.

Integral to Microsoft’s vision is a security module, embedded in the PC, that would effectively lock the PC to a certain supplier.

“The metering agents and specific elements of the security module… allow an underwriter in the supply chain to confidently supply a computer at little or no upfront cost to a user or business, aware that their investment is protected and that the scalable performance capabilities generate revenue commensurate with actual performance level settings and usage,” the application reads.

‘A more granular approach’
According to the application, the issue with the existing PC business model is that it “requires more or less a one chance at the consumer kind of mentality, where elasticity curves are based on the pressure to maximize profits on a one-time-sale, one-shot-at-the-consumer mentality”.

Microsoft’s proposed model, on the other hand, could “allow a more granular approach to hardware and software sales”, the application states, adding that the user “may be able to select a level of performance related to processor, memory, graphics power, etc that is driven not by a lifetime maximum requirement but rather by the need of the moment”.

“When the need is browsing, a low level of performance may be used and, when network-based interactive gaming is the need of the moment, the highest available performance may be made available to the user,” the document reads. “Because the user only pays for the performance level of the moment, the user may see no reason to not acquire a device with a high degree of functionality, in terms of both hardware and software, and experiment with a usage level that suits different performance requirements.”

By way of example, the application posits a situation involving three “bundles” of applications and performance: office, gaming and browsing.

“The office bundle may include word-processing and spreadsheet applications, medium graphics performance and two of three processor cores,” the document reads. “The gaming bundle may include no productivity applications but may include 3D graphics support and three of three processor cores. The browsing bundle may include no productivity applications, medium graphics performance and high-speed network interface.”

“Charging for the various bundles may be by bundle and by duration. For example, the office bundle may be $1.00 [68 pence] per hour, the gaming bundle may be $1.25 per hour and the browsing bundle may be $0.80 per hour. The usage charges may be abstracted to ‘units/hour’ to make currency conversions simpler. Alternatively, a bundle may incur a one-time charge that is operable until changed or for a fixed-usage period,” the document reads.

Microsoft’s patent application does acknowledge that a per-use model of computing would probably increase the cost of ownership over the PC’s lifetime. The company argues in its application, however, that “the payments can be deferred and the user can extend the useful life of the computer beyond that of the one-time purchase machine”.

The document suggests that “both users and suppliers benefit from this new business model” because “the user is able to migrate the performance level of the computer as needs change over time, while the supplier can develop a revenue stream business that may actually have higher value than the one-time purchase model currently practiced”.

“Rather than suffering through less-than-adequate performance for a significant portion of the life of a computer, a user can increase performance level over time, at a slight premium of payments,” the application reads. “When the performance level finally reaches its maximum and still better performance is required, then the user may upgrade to a new computer, running at a relatively low performance level, probably with little or no change in the cost of use.”

By David Meyer ZDNet.co.uk
Posted on ZDNet News: Dec 29, 2008 6:20:34 AM

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Survey of more than 1,000 Internet activists, journalists, and technologists about tech life in 2020 finds expectations of haptic and voice interfaces.

This was originally published in CNET News.

Step aside, keyboards, laptops, and 9-to-5 jobs. A survey of more than 1,000 Internet activists, journalists, and technologists released Sunday speculates that by 2012, those quaint relics of 20th century life will fade away.

It’s not a formal survey of the sort that, say, political pollsters use. Nor are computer journalists especially known for their prognosticative abilities. Still, the Pew Internet and American Life Project hopes the effort will provide a glimpse of the best current thinking about how online life will evolve in the next decade or so.

Lee Rainie and the other Pew researchers asked their survey respondents to respond to a series of questions about 2020 future scenarios, including whether the mobile phone will be the “primary” Internet connection (most agreed), whether copy protection will flourish (most disagreed), and whether transparency “heightens individual integrity and forgiveness (evenly split).

The rough consensus was that “few lines divide professional time from personal time,” and that professionals are happy with the way work and play are “seamlessly integrated in most of these workers’ lives.”

Another, which also met with broad agreement: “Talk and touch are common technology interfaces. People have adjusted to hearing individuals dictating information in public to their computing devices. In addition ‘haptic’ technologies based on touch feedback have been fully developed, so, for instance, a small handheld Internet appliance allows you to display and use a full-size virtual keyboard on any flat surface for those moments when you would prefer not to talk aloud to your networked computer.”

One respondent was Google chief economist Hal Varian, who said: “The big problem with the cell phone is the (user interface), particularly on the data side. We are waiting for a breakthrough.”

It’s easier to read the report itself, which you can find here (PDF). This is Pew’s third report in the series; further reading can be found in its 2005 first survey (PDF) and 2006 second survey (PDF).

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